DE BEQUE, Colo.- In the first week of October, De Beque residents were notified the town’s water supply had reached unsafe levels of Total Trihalomethanes or TTHM.
TTHM is a combination of different elements that result after water you drink and use is disinfected by water treatment plants. TTHM is a disinfection byproduct after water is treated for harmful viruses and bacteria prior to consumer use.
Residents were notified of the high levels after the running annual average of TTHM reached 83 parts per billion (ppb) violating Environmental Protection Agency regulation of 80ppb . This average breached EPA regulation after TTHM levels tested high in May and August quarterly testing.
An official with the Water Quality Control Division at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the town has been following protocol.
“The requirements for conducting that public notice for contaminants that are of a chronic health risk is within 30 days,” said Safe Drinking Water Program Manager Ron Falco. “So the town did meet that regulatory requirement.”
That regulatory requirement for notifying the public about unsafe TTHM levels is outlined by the Safe Drinking Water Act administered by the EPA. The EPA provides a template water utilities must follow when notifying the public. The template includes these regulatory requirements.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment records, there have been 71 TTHM violations reported to the state since October 2015.
Falco says TTHM is a contaminant that actually isn’t that harmful in the short term, but could be in the long term for at risk groups if consumed at unsafe levels. He says right now, the state feels the water is mostly safe.
“We do not advise an alternate source of water like bottled water for most people,” Falco said. “So as written into the public notice if someone has a baby, is severely compromised with their immune system, pregnant, or elderly, they could be at increased risk and should seek advice from a healthcare provider.”
A recent test on De Beque’s water from town officials found the TTHM levels around 40 for September. Experts say TTHM levels tend to rise in the summer months. Ron Falco says the state is in constant communication with the town about its testing.
“They would still stick with the quarterly monitoring and that’s the best way for us to assess kind of the average of the concentrations going forward, which is how we look at these long term chronic exposure risks.”
Falco adds the state is offering technical assistance to the town to ensure this never happens again.
The state’s Water Quality Control Division has an online tool where anyone can look up their water utility’s consumer confidence reports, as well as look up previous EPA water quality violations in the state.